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The Region 1 Sports Report M-F 4p-5p.
The Region 1 Sports Report M-F 4p-5p.
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The Leach Report Weekdays, 8-9a
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James Harden did everything he could to bring the Houston Rockets back from a big deficit in the fourth quarter. He got them to overtime, but his 57 points weren't enough.

All because of a last-second free throw.

Mike Conley scored 35 points and Jonas Valanciunas had a career-best 33, including the game-winning free throw with less than a second left as the Memphis Grizzlies outlasted the Houston Rockets 126-125 on Wednesday night.

"We put ourselves in a hole and tried to pick it up, but it was too late," Harden said. "We were down (17), so I had to do something."

Harden led a 17-2 Houston rally in the fourth — scoring 15 points during that stretch — to pull the Rockets to 106-104. He hit three free throws with 4 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime tied at 115.

Harden scored all 10 points for Houston in overtime and the teams were still tied at 125 when Clint Capela fouled Valanciunas with 0.1 seconds left. Valanciunas, who also had 15 rebounds, made the first of two free throws. The clock ran out after he missed the second foul shot.

Chris Paul had 18 points and seven assists for Houston, which had won three straight. Capela added 14 points and 10 rebounds. The loss was only Houston's second in the last 14 games.

"It was one of those games. Every once in a while it crops up," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "You've got to go on. It's too bad, but we just kind of threw that away."

Memphis dominated the game through 3½ quarters until the Harden-led comeback. Conley made all six of his shots, including a quartet of 3-pointers, in the first quarter. Valanciunas made all nine of his shots in the first half.

But despite the double-digit lead into the fourth, the Grizzlies had to weather Harden's 28 points after the third quarter.

"It got crazy there for a little bit," Conley said. "That was a fun game. It's the kind of game you want to be a part of — big plays, big opportunities for everybody. The way it ended was wild.

"I'm just happy we got away with a win."

TIP-INS

Rockets: Harden's 57 points were just short of his career-best 61 against the Knicks on Jan. 23. . Eric Gordon (rest) was given the night off, and Kenneth Faried sat out with left knee soreness. ... Harden's streak of five straight double-doubles ended. ... Houston made 21 3-pointers, the most by a Memphis opponent this season and second-most in Grizzlies franchise history (23 by the Pistons on April 8, 2018).

Grizzlies: Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel, signed recently by the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football, attended the game. ... Conley has scored at least 20 points in six straight games, matching the longest such streak of his career. ... Memphis recorded no blocks for the first time this season.

BAD START

Houston had little answer for the Grizzlies early as Memphis built the lead to 19, making 74 percent of its shots in the first quarter, including going 7 of 11 from outside the arc. "We weren't doing anything," Harden said. "Defensively they were getting what they wanted. Offensively we weren't being aggressive. The fourth quarter and overtime we played well."

BOARD WORK

Memphis outrebounded the Rockets 50-39, and that included a 14-11 edge on the offensive glass — the key one coming by Valanciunas that led to the game-winning foul shot. "They had been kicking our butt all night," D'Antoni said, adding: "We didn't play with a lot of force for a long time."

SPOILERS

The win was Memphis' fourth in the last six games — three of the four against teams in the Western Conference playoff race. The fourth was over Orlando, which is just outside the postseason picture in the East. "It's not like, 'Oh, they're a playoff team, we want to play better,'" Grizzlies guard Delon Wright said. "We're just trying to win every game. It just so happens that we're beating the playoff teams."

UP NEXT

Rockets: Host the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.

Grizzlies: At the Orlando Magic on Friday.

John Calipari has tweeted that his "plan and desire" is to retire at Kentucky, quashing the latest rumor in what has been an annual ritual linking him as a candidate for vacant coaching jobs.

The 10th-year Wildcats coach said on his verified Twitter account Wednesday night "there is no better job in the world" to coach basketball than at Kentucky. Calipari has periodically been mentioned as a candidate for NBA jobs, only to state his commitment to the Wildcats. His tweet did not refer to a specific opening, but the 247Sports UCLA website had reported the Hall of Fame coach was showing "serious interest" in coaching the Bruins, who fired coach Steve Alford early in the season.

Calipari is set to coach second-seeded Kentucky in Thursday's NCAA Tournament game against No. 15 seed Abilene Christian. He followed with another tweet that said, "Now let's focus on this game tomorrow."

Here are scores from Wednesday night's high school baseball and softball games featuring local teams.

Baseball

McCracken County 4, Martin Westview, TN 2

Softball

Christian County 16, University Heights 0 (3 innings)
Kentucky coach John Calipari expects scoring and rebounding leader PJ Washington to play in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday despite seeing a foot specialist.

Washington spent several days in a walking boot "as a precaution" before the second-seeded Wildcats open Midwest Region play against 15th-seeded Abilene Christian.

Washington sprained a foot in the Southeastern Conference Tournament against Tennessee. Calipari says X-rays and MRI results were negative, but team doctors wanted him to see a specialist.

Calipari says Washington wants to play in the first round.

The 6-foot-8, 228-pound Washington is averaging 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds. The All-Southeastern Conference selection by The Associated Press and league coaches is under consideration for national honors such as the Naismith and Wooden awards.

 

Pekka Rinne is starting to regain some of his Vezina Trophy form he showed last season.

And the Predators, last season's Presidents' Trophy winner, are finally developing some consistency.

Rinne shut out Toronto for the second time this season and Brian Boyle, Wayne Simmonds and Filip Forsberg scored goals to give the Predators a 3-0 win over the slumping Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.

"You can sense that in the locker room the confidence is getting higher and it's a funny thing how it goes," Rinne said. "But it's the best thing in the world winning some games in a row."

Nashville won its third straight and Toronto lost for the fourth time in five games.

Rinne made 22 saves for his 55th career shutout. Nashville also beat Toronto 4-0 on Jan. 7 when Rinne made 18 saves.

Nashville became the second team in NHL history to sweep a two-game series with Toronto with a pair of shutouts. Philadelphia is the only other team to do that in 1992-93.

Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen made 17 stops.

"They're a proven playoff team and they've been playing like that for a while," Andersen said of the Predators, who made it to the second round last season and the Stanley Cup Final in 2017.

"They don't give up too many shots and too many chances, so that's playoff-type hockey and that's something we've got to get used to."

Nashville pulled within one point of first-place Winnipeg in the Central Division. But the Predators have played two more games.

Toronto fell six points behind second-place Boston in the Atlantic Division.

Boyle gave the Predators a 1-0 lead when he sent a one-timer from the slot past Andersen glove-side at 4:47 of the first period.

It was his 18th goal of the season and fifth since joining Nashville on Feb. 7 after a trade with New Jersey.

Ryan Johansen recorded his 48th assist, a career high, on the goal.

"Joey makes a nice read and knocks the puck down and throws a really nice pass," Boyle said. "He knew they were out there for a bit and thought they were tired. It was fun to be part of."

Nashville made it 2-0 when Simmonds poked a shot into an open net after taking a perfectly placed pass from Ryan Ellis at 9:13 of the third period.

It was his first goal as a Predator since arriving in a deal with Philadelphia minutes before the trade deadline. He has 17 goals on the season.

"It was a strong 60-minute effort and I thought we were good from the net out tonight," Simmonds said. "I think we're starting to gel. We've added a few pieces. Pekka is unbelievable, unreal. It seems like he just stops everything. Him and Juuse (Saros) are two of the best goalies in the league."

Forsberg added an empty-netter with 2:09 left.

Defense took over in the second period when Toronto held Nashville to two shots and the Maple Leafs managed just eight.

Rinne made a sprawling save to rob John Tavares four minutes into the third period. Tavares leads the Leafs with 40 goals.

"It was a pretty traditional 3 on 2," Rinne said. "The rebound was right there for Tavares and I just knew that I had to get something over there. I guess it's desperation — just threw my hand and my leg out there and it happened to hit me."

Toronto allowed 23 goals in its previous four games as it went 1-3-0.

NOTES: Toronto RW Kasperi Kapanen returned to the lineup after missing the previous four games with a concussion. ... Slumping Nashville C Kyle Turris was back in the lineup after being benched the previous two games. He played on the fourth line with LW Brian Boyle and RW Rocco Grimaldi. "(Brian Boyle) has seamlessly fit into our group," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's been a real valuable part of our play lately."

UP NEXT

Toronto: Visits Buffalo on Wednesday night.

Nashville: Hosts Pittsburgh on Thursday night.